JS Tip 266: From the Writing Workshops: The Conciseness Series: Get Rid of the False Subjects

In the writing workshops, participants usually ask about writing more concisely. We’re continuing a series on conciseness.

A false subject is a replacement subject like “It” or “There” (usually coupled with “is” or “are”) which adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence:

  • It is five miles from the site to the roadway.

     

A true subject is the person, place, thing, or idea the sentence is about:

The site is five miles from the roadway.

Okay. So how do we get rid of a false subject? Three steps:

  1. Find and get rid of any “It is,” “There are,” or “There is” constructions.
  2. Find the true subject of the sentence and move it to the beginning of the sentence.
  3. Rewrite the sentence from that true subject.   

For example:

There are five parts to the program.

Find and get rid of any “It is,” “There are,” or “There is” constructions:

. . . five parts to the program. Poof! Gone!

Find the true subject of the sentence and move it to the beginning of the sentence:

The program . . .

Rewrite the sentence from that true subject:

The program has five parts.

Seven words down to five. A twenty-nine percent weight loss.

Get rid of the false subjects. Write more concisely.

Next week, we’ll talk about getting rid of passive voice. Hey. We love this stuff.